Cat People: The Feline Fun of Bell, Book and Candle

A film genre we would like to mention here is the Cat movie. It doesn’t appear in books or articles discussing movie genres, but Cat movies do exist; a Google search produced such titles like The Lion King, That Darn Cat, Rhubarb, and Garfield. All of which are films about, with, or concerning cats, although, within this narrow category, there are distinctions. Rhubarb and That Darn Cat, for example, have cats acting like cats—strolling through whatever mayhem and confusion the plot (or cat) can cook up, while barely mussing a well-groomed whisker. Garfield, on the other hand, is about a cat who acts like a human—a big, slobby, lazy human, but still a human. But Columbia’s 1958 production of Bell, Book and Candle is about humans who act like cats, which is a BIG difference. And which is why we think BB&C is just about the best Cat movie there is.

The Cat’s Meow: A poster for Bell, Book and Candle prominently features its feline star, Pyewacket.

Some perceptive readers might claim that the famous 1942 Val Lewton horror film actually titled Cat People is also about people acting like cats, but we beg to differ. The hapless heroine of Cat People may fear turning into a cat, but in no way does her neurotic behavior approach the cool, insouciant attitude of your basic feline. No, BB&C is the Cat movie par excellence because its characters have the kind of hip, witty sophistication that (if we may cattily state) partakes of the feline disposition. They are cool cats, indeed.

A Witchy Gathering: Elsa Lanchester, Jack Lemmon, and Kim Novak listen to Ernie Kovacs lecture on witchcraft; James Stewart also attends. Note Pyewacket curled up on the couch next to Novak.

But can the concept of feline disposition be extended into the concept of genre? The word ‘Genre,’ according to our Encarta dictionary, refers to a category of artistic work, “based on form, style, or subject matter.” In terms of style, we would say that Cat movies definitely are a genre—one might argue that the cat is all about style, as (to paraphrase Kipling), waving its wild tail and walking by its wild lone, it saunters across your just-scrubbed kitchen counter, its paws leaving dainty little prints on the still-damp surface to mark its presence. You can see that sense of style in the BB&C cat-like characters—they happen to be witches, but don’t start dredging up images of a cackling Margaret Hamilton from the collective cinematic unconscious. The BB&C witches never cackle; they are cool, aloof, and slyly amused. (They also have a much better clothing sense; no less than Jean Louis gowned these guys).

Fashion Sense for Witches: Compare the dowdy frock and unflattering hat of the Wicked Witch of the West (not to mention that green skin) with BB&C’s svelte Jean Louis gowns, as modeled by Janice Rule and Kim Novak.

As a point of comparison, we ask you to consider the Dog movie. Dogs, as we all know, are the noblest creatures on earth. They are loyal, brave, loving, and lovable. They have a Boy Scout outlook on life: They are here to help others. Such a disposition tends toward a serious temperament, which can be extended to Dog movies. The best-known Dog films, such as Lassie Come Home or Old Yeller, are three-hankie efforts, summoning forth our deepest, most heartfelt responses to their heroic, tragic canine characters. Even a funny Dog movie like 101 Dalmatians is, at its core, dramatic; it’s about courage under fire, protection of the weak, the importance of family. Dogs, and Dog movies, demonstrate the best qualities that we humans admire and hope to possess. They are idealized reflections of ourselves, reminding us to try to be a little nicer to our fellow humans with whom we share space.

Diva Time: A gorgeous Novak poses with her equally gorgeous feline companion.

In contrast, Cat movies do not aspire to a tragic outlook. If Dogs are Mother Teresa, Cats are Joan Crawford; they are divas, through and through. Cats always do what they damn well please, and they always get away with it (as anyone who’s ever had to solve The Mystery of The Missing Fish from The Fishtank knows). In films like That Darn Cat or Rhubarb, the cat is in charge, stealing every scene and enjoying all the fun. This essential difference in Cat and Dog movies can be traced to the essential difference in feline and canine natures. Dogs, as the saying goes, are the only species that have seen their god; whereas cats (pace ancient Egypt) are gods, a fact that no self-respecting feline will ever let you forget. Dogs serve, but cats expect to be served; godhood, after all, has its privileges. As anyone who lives with a cat can tell you, there is no such thing as a cat owner. The cat owns you, a condition of co-habitation to which you, with no choice, must submit. Such is life with a deity.

Cool Cat: Pyewacket looks down on the passing parade from a god-like position. The African-Oceanic art is displayed throughout the film.

We do wish to make a caveat about Cat movies, though, which the mention of Cat People above has brought up. That’s the association of cats with the Horror genre. Films like The Leopard Man, The Black Cat, Night of the Demon, Cat’s Eye, Tomb of Ligeia, and many others, feature malevolent cats who bring misfortune crashing down onto the protagonist’s unwary head. This association, we maintain, is a misperception of the cat’s basically indolent disposition. Horror by its nature requires a rude, rampaging energy to effect its mayhem, its monsters spreading terror and destruction through hordes of central-casting mittel-European extras. Your typical feline, however, would much rather curl up into a furry ball on your new white damask couch than run riot through a picturesque Bavarian village (the energy is instead supplied by you, wielding the lint roller).

It’s Witchcraft: An Italian poster for BB&C (its title translates as ‘A Witch in Paradise’) emphasizes the witching aspects of the film’s story; note how Stewart’s head is encased in a crystal ball.

Similarly, the witches who inhabit the plot of BB&C are not at all horrific. They tend to lounge, like cats, particularly the film’s star, Kim Novak, who plays the central character, Gillian Holroyd, a witch in a rut and on the scent for romance. Novak herself is like a long, tawny cat in the film, sprawling on couches or chairs as she takes in the action around her through large, impassive eyes. The actress often conveyed a blank sensuality in her roles, but her inexpressiveness works for her in BB&C; as with a cat, you’re never quite sure what she’s thinking. Among her many physical assets was a broad, supple back, and in several of BB&C’s scenes she displays that fabulous dorsal section as she lies stretched out along a divan, like a lioness sunning herself on the veldt, keeping one half-shut eye looking out for prey.

A Lioness On Her Veldt: Novak lounges while Stewart tries not to look at her unclothed back.

In BB&C the prey is James Stewart, playing Gillian’s upstairs neighbor, a publisher named Shep Henderson, who’s unaware of the witchcraft all around him. His very innocence of such subjects makes him Gillian’s object of interest. BB&C’s story concerns Gillian’s use of witchcraft to snare Shep for herself, in which she’s assisted by her pet cat, Pyewacket, who’s also her familiar (an earthbound spirit used in magic), to cast a love spell. If you hadn’t noticed the Novak-Feline resemblance before, the director Richard Quine drives it home in the bewitchment scene, staging it as a close-up that pairs Novak and cat, with two matching sets of beautiful blue eyes. A striking brown-and-tan Siamese (or actually several of them, as more than one cat was used in the film), Pyewacket is as gorgeous as Novak and just as mesmerizing. He has that astonishing feline ability to always draw the eye, no matter what he’s doing (or even not doing) in any scene he’s in. Whether he’s climbing or reclining, you find yourself seeking him out.

Bewitched and Bothered: Here’s the bewitchment scene from BB&C, with Novak and Pye’s team effort to entrance the unwary Stewart. Note how the close-ups pair Novak and the cat.

BB&C was based on a 1950 John van Druten hit play, in which Pye appeared in only a few scenes and is always held firmly by Gillian (presumably to avoid stage mishaps). But in the film Quine can free Pye from Gillian’s grasp, allowing him to wander freely and appear many more times. He’s now an actual character in the narrative, actively engaging with the other actors (and even conversing, with a varied range of mews and purrs); he’s also the first and last character we see in the film. Cinematographer James Wong Howe even films several scenes from Pye’s point of view (particularly when the cat is observing Shep), the photography then switching from widescreen Technicolor to a flattened black-and-white perspective (not at all flattering to the human under view).

Cat’s Eye: James Wong Howe films Stewart from Pye’s viewpoint.

Still, the use of Pyewacket to entrance Stewart does bring up the question: Why would stupefyingly gorgeous Kim Novak need any help, supernatural or otherwise, in attracting a man? However, as it turns out, Shep is getting married the next day so there’s little time to waste; thus the need of Pyewacket’s aid to weave her witchery. But, as Gillian comes to realize, Shep’s love for her is a false love. Love, real love, should be based on free choice, and poor Shep has not been granted any. And love should also be based on honesty, an issue with which Gillian must struggle: Should she tell Shep who she is and what she’s done, or not? What Gillian eventually learns is that, is order to be in love (really in love, as the song goes), she can no longer be a witch but must become fully human.

Never Act with Children, Dogs, or Cats: Novak (on left) and Stewart (on right, back to camera) share space with Pyewacket (center back). Pye’s grooming of himself steals the scene.

It’s this inability to love that, according to the witches themselves, separates them from the humans. “It’s not as if we could fall in love, love is quite impossible,” Gillian says, almost mournfully. The other witches, however, don’t share Gillian’s gloom. If they’re different, they’re also more ‘with it,’ the cool, witty cats opposed to the dull, obliging dogs. It’s a distinction in which Gillian’s aunt, and fellow witch, Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) rejoices: “I sit in the subways sometimes, or in buses, or the movies, and I look at the people next to me and I think, ‘What would you say if I told you I was a witch?’…and I giggle and giggle to myself.” Further explication is given by Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs), the film’s shambling, shaggy guide to Wiccan culture: “Physically impossible for a witch to shed a tear or blush,” he explains. “When you throw them in the water, they float.” Although human and not witch, Redlitch’s written a best-seller called Magic in Mexico (“Sold like the Kinsey Report,” says Shep), and is pitching another witchcraft book to Shep, to be called Magic in Manhattan. (Sid has a penchant for alliterative titles: His next project is Voodoo Among the Virgins.) He’s actually been “summoned” by Gillian to New York, where, much to her dismay, he’s then given the inner-secrets necromancy tour by Nicky, Gillian’s warlock brother (Jack Lemmon). Redlitch’s potential revelation of this hidden witch community via his book forces Gillian to a moment of crisis: She has to admit to Shep that their relationship is based not on feelings but on trickery—and must therefore risk losing him.

The Family That Witches Together: Lanchester, Novak, and Lemmon cast a summoning spell.

Witches’ Guide: Nicky (Lemmon) offers to take Redlitch (Kovacs) to all the best witching places.

The human-witch dichotomy is central to the movie, emphasized by its setting in Greenwich Village (unlike the original play, which set the action in the then-more upper-class and staid Murray Hill neighborhood). The Village of the late 1950s was still the low-rent, Bohemian, pre-gentrified home of artists, beatniks, and occultists, associated with such then-risqué subjects as free love and homosexuality. The witches of BB&C could even be read as the denizens of a closeted gay subculture, with Gillian’s struggle to tell the truth about herself a kind of ‘coming out’; as she warns Nicky, “it doesn’t pay to tell outsiders.” But in a broader context, the witches are the hipsters and the humans are the squares. Gillian’s unconventionality, for example, is stressed not only by her wardrobe (slacks, scarves, and bare feet) but by her avant-garde gallery specializing in African and Oceanic art: During the credit sequence (underscored with jazz music played on bongo drums), the camera glides in a long traveling shot from one exotic carving to the next like a tour guide to the bizarre. But to the unsuspecting human outsider, such glimpses of witch society can be dangerous. A visit by Shep and his then-fiancée Merle (Janice Rule) to the Zodiac, the Boho nightclub-cum-sorcerers-hangout where Nicky plays bongo drums, ends with his betrothed running out screaming into the night.

Hipsters United: Here’s a clip of Shep and Merle’s visit to the beatnik Zodiac Club. The musicians featured in the sequence are The Brothers Candoli, on trumpets and guitar. 

However, it’s the society of the squares that Gillian finds herself longing for. During a Christmas-Eve Zodiac jaunt she asks Queenie, “Don’t you ever wish that we weren’t—what we are? That you could just spend Christmas Eve in a little church somewhere listening to carols instead of bongo drums? I wish I could just spend some time with everyday people for a change.” It’s like sophisticated Madeleine from Vertigo suddenly wishing to be humdrum Judy. Novak made BB&C right after the Hitchcock film, and with the same co-star; and BB&C could be Vertigo turned inside out: Rather than Stewart reconstructing Novak to rekindle a lost magic, Novak attempts to unmake her magical allure to come down to Stewart’s human level. The effect is comic, of course (Shep at first refuses to believe what she tells him). It’s only when tears spatter her cheeks, though, that Gillian realizes how much she’s been undone. By then, it’s too late; Shep, having discovered the truth, now seeks a cure to break the spell.

Tears Before the Mirror: Gillian examines her tears in her reflection, and realizes she’s become human; her aunt Queenie comforts her.

If anything undercuts the plot’s argument of the desirability of being human, however, it’s the supporting witch cast. Quine brought together a great bunch of clowns and he had the wisdom to give them their head. They make witchdom look fun. The charmingly ditzy Lanchester chortles over displays of witchery like an excited child with a new toy; she seems happily arrested in her development. Lemmon here is still the sly, rapscallion comic of such uproarious farces as the 1957 Operation Mad Ball (in which he previously worked with Quine), and was not yet the hangdog schnook of later films like The Apartment and Irma la Douce. His performance gives a generous hint of the full-fledged madcap that would emerge in his next film, Some Like It Hot; in the nightclub sequence with Janice Rule (in the above clip), watch how he yowls in her ear in perfect counterpoint to the music.

No Hands: Nicky (Lemmon) demonstrates how to unlock a door without a key for sister Gillian (Novak); Queenie (Lanchester) watches jealously.

We have to make a special mention here of Ernie Kovacs, who for us simply can do no wrong. Ambling through the film with unkempt hair and straggling moustache, Kovacs looks as if he’s just fallen out of an unmade bed (his wardrobe seems styled on one); he’s a sheepdog among the cheetahs. We always find ourselves shrieking with laughter whenever he appears; he can invest the most minimal, throwaway gesture with hilarity. Note the scene when Shep’s secretary offers Redlitch a drink and asks if he wants it with water or soda. Kovacs responds with merely a waved hand and a “nnnnh” sound (either? neither? both?)—it doesn’t sound like much in our description, but it’s sidesplitting to watch. Our own response when we see it is to fall off the couch.

The Great Ernie: Kovacs as writer/warlock-wanna-be Sid Redlitch

But the topping in the film, like the cherry on the sundae, is Hermione Gingold as the über-witch Mrs. de Pass. With her flaming red hair and richly enunciated, basso-profundo voice, Gingold plays her part the way one imagines Queen Elizabeth I must have reigned over her court—like a fabulous monster holding a huge, panting audience spellbound. The character of Mrs. de Pass is only mentioned in the play, never appearing, but, after seeing Gingold, you wonder how the play did without her. The actress has that flamboyant quality, like the grand Ernest Thesiger, of seeming utterly indispensable to any proceedings. She also projects that particularly feline attitude of self-satisfied superiority (a feline trait that so baffles and infuriates the non-cat lover). When Stewart comes to her for help in breaking Novak’s spell, Gingold eyes him like a cat sizing up its mouse.

Cat and Mouse: Hermione Gingold greets Stewart.

The de-bewitchment sequence with Shep and Mrs. de Pass is only alluded to, not dramatized, in the play, but the scenarist Daniel Taradash wisely wrote it in, and Stewart and Gingold play it to the hilt; it’s the movie’s highlight. Set in the interior of Mrs. de Pass’ house, its gaudy Victorian-gingerbread design reminiscent of the Brewster sisters’ home from Arsenic and Old Lace, the scene is like a page from Julia Child’s Demonic Kitchen: Mrs. de Pass hovers over her stove like one of the Macbeth trio as she whips up her foul brew (it makes nasty rumbling noises, like a gorilla’s empty stomach), dropping in a pinch of this and a sprinkling of that, and then forcing Shep to consume the mess. “Drink it,” she imperiously commands, adding with a sadistic fillip, “All of it.” Poor Shep can barely bring the bowl to his lips. (This scene also has the one character who expresses disapproval of felines, an indignant pet parrot named Sibyl. When Shep explains that Gillian bewitched him with a cat, Sibyl screeches in outrage “Cat?”—to which a startled Shep replies “That’s right”; he then looks askance with a I-can’t-believe-I-just-answered-a-parrot expression on his face.)

Double, Double: Mrs. de Pass whips up a tasty little something to de-bewitch Shep.

Did Someone Mention a Cat?: Sibyl the Parrot objects to Shep’s language.

I Can’t Believe I Drank the Whole Thing: Shep downs Mrs. de Pass’ unholy brew.

Although Shep may be de-bewitched, Love does triumph in the end (if you haven’t seen the film, this is a spoiler), as Shep and Gillian are happily reunited in their now-shared human-ness. Yet BB&C actually closes on the witches, with Queenie and Nicky gazing at the clinching pair (Queenie with sentimental sighs, Nicky with cynical eye-rolling). You could say that it ends with the cats: Appropriately enough, the last shot is a close-up of Pye, purring with feline satisfaction as he sits atop a lamppost, from which he can gaze down on passing humanity from the cat’s (naturally) superior position. Pye is the film’s deux ex machina: He kicks the plot into gear in an early scene when, as he sits on Gillian’s shoulder, she asks his help in getting Shep; and at the end he resolves the film’s romantic dilemmas by bringing Shep back to Gillian (with a timely entrance onto Shep’s shoulder). Maybe dogs are our best friend, but cats come pretty close; if nothing else, they give us an image of witty cool to emulate—and they certainly make great subjects for the movies.

The Last Word: 1) above: Queenie and Nicky react to the Gillian-Shep reunion; 2) below: Pye purrs from atop a lamppost.

BONUS CLIP: Here’s the trailer for Bell, Book and Candle, which prominently features the film’s bongo-drum score: 
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19 Comments

  1. Really nice post here. I enjoyed reading it a lot. I’ve never seen BB&C, so I can’t really comment about the film, but I can say that I liked your discussion of cats and dogs in films. I dislike cats immensely, but I still got a kick out of your assessment.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment. We do recommend seeing BB&C (it’s on DVD); even if you don’t like cats, it’s a lot of fund, and a cast w/Jack Lemmon, Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, Elsa Lanchester, Hermione Gingold, and the great Ernie Kovacs is hard to beat!

      Reply
  2. John Greco

     /  January 9, 2012

    Nice review GOM! Stewart, Lemmon, Novak and Ernie Kovacs is a hard combination to beat. I also love a good cat movie! Did you know there was more than one cat used as Pyewacket? Here is a photo of animal lover Kim Novak with multiple Pyewackets.

    http://thecatfiles.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/kim-novak-and-so-many-pyewackets/

    Also, a here a few more cat movies…

    Harry and Tonto
    The Incredible Shrinking Man
    The Adventures of Milo and Otis

    and of course Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring Orangey the only cat to win the PATSY Award (Oscar equvilant for animals) twice. Orangey also “starred” in Rhubarb and The incredible Shrinking Man.

    Reply
    • Hi, John, and thanks for your comment! One source we read said that NINETEEN cats were used for Pyewacket, so we hope anyone who was making the film did not suffer from fur allergies! Our own favorite cat film is ‘Rhubarb,’ whose hero is funny and feisty (plus it’s also about baseball, so it’s an unbeatable combination).

      Reply
  3. GOM, as much as I’m enjoying A MONTH OF VERTIGO, I must say your sprightly review of BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE (BB&C) is a delightful look at how the other half lives, so to speak! 🙂 I’ve always felt that James Stewart and Kim Novak were a wonderful star team in both VERTIGO and BB&C; I wish they’d had more opportunities to work together. Also, as a native New Yorker, BB&C brings me happily back to my NYC roots.

    I happen to like both dogs and cats, though sadly, I’m unable to enjoy the company of either due to our family’s pet-dander allergies, so I’m kind of living vicariously through your BB&C post! 🙂 I especially loved your cat comparisons in your post, especially your description of Kim Novak herself bringing to mind “a long, tawny cat in the film, sprawling on couches or chairs as she takes in the action around her through large, impassive eyes. Novak often conveyed a blank sensuality in her roles, but her inexpressiveness works for her in BB&C; as with a cat, you’re never quite sure what she’s thinking.” How cool that those aspects of Novak worked so well for her performances in both BB&C and VERTIGO! I also liked this line: “It’s like sophisticated Madeleine from Vertigo suddenly wishing to be humdrum Judy.” And I agree, Novak did indeed have a gorgeous back, among her other physical charms. 🙂

    You also made an excellent point with: “Rather than Stewart reconstructing Novak to rekindle a lost magic, Novak attempts to unmake her magical allure to come down to Stewart’s human level.” (Hey, wasn’t that what Samantha’s hubby Darrin was always trying to do to her on BEWITCHED? :-))

    Last but not least, what a great cast! I’m pleased but not surprised that you’re a fellow Ernie Kovacs fan like the rest of us here at Team Bartilucci H.Q.; your blog posts attest to your excellent taste! Great post, GOM! I hope you and yours are having a Happy New Year so far!

    Reply
    • Hello, TB, and thanks for your comment, and Happy New Year to you! BB&C is a great film for cat lovers, so that’s one reason why we wrote on it (there’s also a hilarious scene with a parrot, so bird lovers may like it, too). Novak and Stewart had an excellent rapport, and you make an interesting point about how BB&C is like the other half of VERTIGO (especially since the stars made the films back to back). Novak also liked working with Stewart; but according to IMDB, he thought he was too old for his part, which may be why they didn’t work again. But we think Novak is excellent here, and she looks FABULOUS throughout. And then you mention the cast– we LOVE Ernie Kovacs; a maxim of life is that he can do no wrong! We also love Hermione Gingold, and she’s hysterically funny in her scenes — we almost wish they could have made a sequel around her character! And we love it that her character lives in Brooklyn — where else would such a grandly eccentric witch live? 😉

      Reply
  4. Rick

     /  January 13, 2012

    GOM, a very entertaining post! I loved your definition of cat and dog movies. Kim made a very fetching “cat” in BB&C. I always thought that Cyd Charisse had a cool, cat-like vibe. And then, there’s the adorable Julie Newmar, still the definitive Cateoman for me. As for BB&C, I wasn’t always a fan. But, as my appreciation for Kim Novak has grown over the years, I have come to enjoy BB&C. Though I like James Stewart in anything, he seems a bit miscast. It would have interesting to see a younger lead opposite Kim. As you pointed out, the supporting cast features some fine performers.

    Reply
    • Hi, Rick, great to hear from you and thanks for your comment. You’re not alone in thinking Stewart was miscast; according to IMDB, he thought so himself. Supposedly Cary Grant also sought out the role, and it would have had quite a different tone with him in the part. The original play starred Rex Harrison, obviously a very suave fellow, so maybe Grant would have done better. In thinking of other 50s actors who could have been cast, we wonder if William Holden might have been a good (and younger) choice – he always comes across as so solid and grounded in reality, it might be fun to contrast him with witches! We agree that Cyd Charisse had a chic, cat-like quality, as did Eartha Kitt – she might have made a great Gillian herself.

      Reply
  5. Lemora Martin

     /  January 30, 2013

    Thank you for this excellent article on Bell, Book And Candle. I have been trying to find information about the cat(s) who portray Pyewacket, and that led me to your blog. To me, the real love story in BBC is between Gillian and Pye. I would’ve found William Holden more believable than James Stewart as the Mortal for whom she gives it all up.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for visiting and enjoying our post! We agree about your point on James Stewart being not quite believable in his part. Supposedly, Cary Grant wanted the role, but it eventually went to Stewart (maybe because he had earlier co-starred with Novak in Vertigo?). William Holden is an interesting choice for the role; he was closer to Novak’s age and had the right aura of ‘normalcy’ that the role calls for; he’d have been a good contrast to the ‘witch’ characters. But, as you note, Gillian and Pye are really central to the story; it’s through their relationship that you see how Gillian changes.

      Reply
  6. I really want to save this specific blog, “Cat People:
    The Feline Fun of Bell, Book and Candle Grand Old Movies” on my
    own page. Do you care in case Ido it? Thanks a lot ,Jacelyn

    Reply
    • Any links to any of our Grand Old Movie posts must be also credit Grand Old Movies as the source and sole owner of copyright of the material. This is our own writing and we want to be acknowledged for it. Thanks.

      Reply
  7. Dan Char

     /  April 5, 2013

    Great post! I just recently buy the blu-ray version of this film. Unfortunately, the film grain show a lot in this too much sharpened version… Keep the good work

    Reply
    • We’ve heard of that issue with some Blu-ray discs, that sometimes the images are too finely detailed, which can look distracting. Hope it doesn’t detract too much when you watch the film. Thanks for stopping and commenting!

      Reply
  8. Nick

     /  February 25, 2014

    Kim Novak was elegance personified in this film, even when barefoot, wearing a black sweater and black Capri pants. I actually shook my head sadly a bit when her character lost her witchy powers and became the perfect, potential 1950’s non-threatening powerless little wifey in a pastel dress.

    Reply
    • Yes, I agree with your perceptive comment. Novak as a witch is cool, smart, sexy, and independent, who goes after what she wants (such as James Stewart’s character). The story seems to want to ‘domesticate’ her and make her, as you point out, non-threatening (just note how her store switches from Afro-Caribbean art to — seashells!). It might have been cooler to have changed Stewart into a warlock and have everyone go off together like that at the end! Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment.

      Reply
  9. Toni Bauer

     /  April 1, 2014

    Thanks so much for your great post. Wonderful commentary on the movie, as well as dogs and cats, which I love equally. I was enchanted by this movie at age 12 in a small town Georgia theatre when it first appeared, and almost equally so tonight all these years later. It reinforced a near life long fascination with Siamese cats, along with the conviction that there were places I’d feel far more at home than that small town. The lovely Kim Novak managed to be sultry, soft, and edgy all at once. I was inspired by the style and offbeat sophistication of the movie. Another article I read asserted that the primary cat used as Pyewacket was a New Yorker named Cy A. Meese, who also was a stage actor. He supposedly retired from acting to rule over a bookstore frequented by such luminaries as Truman Capote and John Cheever, living to a ripe old age and dying peacefully in his sleep. I like to think that is so.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for enjoying the post and for commenting! I have the same feeling when watching the film, of admiring the cool sophistication of the main characters and their unique lifestyles. Thanks for sharing that fascinating bit of info on the chief Pyewacket; it’s a great story for us cat lovers. Kim Novak is herself an animal lover, and one of the things I like watching in this film is how well she bonds with her feline co-star/s.

      Reply
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